With the NL East title safely in hand, the Nationals decided to reward their hungover heroes by giving all of the regulars the day off. That meant that for one night, the best of the Syracuse Chiefs got to show off their skills against the 2nd best team in the NL East, our Atlanta Braves. Fortunately, the Braves didn't embarrass themselves, as they just barely scored more than 2 runs. In fact, they got 3 on one play thanks to a bizarre play that ended up giving them 3 runs in a bases-loaded, 2-out situation. Nationals B-Team or not, the win broke a 5-game losing streak for the Braves, which is always nice.
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If you missed it yesterday, then you missed a treat. Fredi Gonzalez will probably see his job come under review after the Braves had yet another pathetic September, and this prompted Dan to go scorched Earth on the manager. Here's an appetizer of the hit piece:
This column is not meant to place all the blame on Atlanta's coaching staff. But they certainly deserve a healthy share. From his curious bullpen usage, to his maddening lineup construction, to the regression of almost every Braves hitter, Fredi Gonzalez is front and center when it comes to assessing responsibility for this season's failings.
Fangraphs is doing a series of "Where Does ______ Go From Here?" pieces, and yesterday, their Braves edition dropped at an extremely opportune time: The morning after the Nationals clinched the division in Atlanta. Although the article argues that the Braves performed at a level thaaat should've been expected of them, they also say that this is because GM Frank Wren chose to sit on his hands instead of seeking to improve a team that won 96 games in 2013. They say that fixing the Braves shouldn't be a difficult task. Emphasis is mine.
While fangraphs says that the Braves have problems that might not be too difficult to fix, our friends in enemy territory (the Washington Post) think that the Braves should go about fixing the putrid offense that is on track to be the worst since the bad ol' days of the '80s. From Barry Svrluga's article:
[Atlanta] is on pace to score 593 times this year – what would be the Braves’ lowest output in a full season since 1989. That Braves team won 63 games.
This from a lineup that includes first baseman Freddie Freeman (.293/.389/.475) and left fielder Justin Upton (.277/.351/.502), who have combined for 45 home runs and 170 RBI. But it’s a lineup that also includes downright black holes. The on-base-plus-slugging percentages of Johnson (.647), B.J. Upton (.616) and Simmons (.615) all rank among the 10 worst in baseball this season. Put another way, the Braves have given more than 1,650 plate appearances to three of the least productive offensive players in the game, a trio that comprises a third of their lineup.
The Braves won last night, but it came at a small cost, as both Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons failed to make it through the game. Andrelton Simmons left in the 4th when he tweaked the ankle that has been bothering him for the majority of the season. Jason Heyward was hit on his left thumb by a pitch in the 6th inning. He stayed in the game and eventually scored the 3rd run for Atlanta, but he also had to exit. Heyward looks like he'll be the one more likely to miss some time (even though x-rays were negative, swelling could still be an issue), while Simmons could be ready for the weekend series against the Mets.
One of the big mysteries this past week has been Evan Gattis and what seemed to be a particularly nasty case of strep throat. Gattis hasn't played since early last week after contracting the illness, and he was expected to make his return for that doomed Texas series. Gattis didn't make it back, and he's still been ill. After going to the doctors for further evaluation, he got some "good news:" It was a kidney stone, that was caused by the dehydration that he went through as a result of strep throat. You know you're having a bad 2 weeks when that's considered "good news."
While the Braves and Brewers have gone into a September swoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates have decided that they liked the Postseason so much last year that they want to return this year. The Bucs have won 3 straight games now, and won 8 of their last 10. Last night was a big victory, as they stomped the last place Boston Red Sox 9-1.
After the Nationals and Orioles punched their tickets to the Postseason on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Angels confirmed their reservation for the Postseason after a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A's lost to the Texas Rangers 6-1. It's the first divisional crown for the Angels since 2009, and it's the first one in the Era of Mike Trout, who will finally get a chance to show the baseball world what he can do on the big stage. Meanwhile, yeesh. I know we're talking about collapses over here, but that was really some kind of collapse by the A's. They might still make it in as a Wild Card, but for a team who had World Series aspirations just 2 months ago, this is a huge disappointment.